21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13, NKJV)
Today is April Fool’s Day (April 1), the traditional day of playing light-hearted pranks on friends and even strangers. Laughter and good humor is good, but even as we laugh, our hearts may sorrow and grieve. As we seek out laughter and entertainment, we may be making decisions that will ultimately bring us sorrow and grief. These are the decisions that reveal foolishness instead of wisdom. We ought to pause and ask ourselves whether we are making choices that are heaping up for ourselves sorrow, grief, and eternal regrets (Rom. 2:5). The Bible says the real fool says, “There is no God” (Psa. 14:1). To ignore the truth of God’s presence and power is a fool’s errand (Rom. 1:18-23). The Bible says real fool chooses to be deceived by intoxicants. God says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Broken lives, broken homes, and broken souls testify to the evil of this behavior (Prov. 23:29-35). The Bible says the real fool believes life is all about the things he possesses. Jesus explained that life is not about what we possess (Lk. 12:15). God said to the man who had laid up many goods for many years, “Fool!” because he had not been rich toward God (Lk. 12:20-21). An April’s Fool Day prank may fool us, but we must not fool ourselves by choosing foolish and sinful things and calling them good.
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:21–22, NKJV)
The elevation and exaltation of human wisdom comes at the expense of gratefully honoring our Creator. Knowing God exists should compel us to revere Him and thankfully obey His will. After all, it is His power that created us and that now sustains us each day (Rom. 1:20; Acts 14:15-17). Wisdom was the companion and possession of God at the beginning of creation and before (Prov. 8:22-31). How arrogant it is to think wisdom begins and ends with us (Job 12:2)! The apostle calls our attention to the futility of thoughts when void of a faithful recognition of God. The philosophy of humanism – a materialistic, purely humancentric view of life that rejects the divine – does not successfully answer the most basic questions of our existence: “Where did I come from?,” “Why are I here?,” and “Where am I going?” Asserting we are wise does not make it so. In fact, it exposes our foolishness (v. 22). Such prideful conceit darkens the heart and numbs the senses to the evidence of our Creator’s power and deity, and to the faith we should place in Him. Without God’s wisdom to guide us we are left to our own devices and sin’s demise (read wisdom’s plea in Prov. 8:32-36). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10).
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated. (Proverbs 14:17, NKJV)
Reason and good judgment exit the scene when anger enters the stage. “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly (Prov. 14:29). The short fuse of anger and wrath destroys relationships we claim to be valuable to us – family, friendships, brethren. We have chosen foolishness and evil intentions over discretion and peace when we lose control of our emotions and let anger rule our spirit (Jas. 1:19-20). Anger expresses ill will, even hatred, toward others. Getting angry does not remove being accountable for our words and actions. Cain was very angry and hated his brother Abel, leading to murder (Gen. 4:5-7; 1 Jno. 3:12-15). His anger led to great folly. It is not enough to know we should not lose our temper. Knowing this, we must add self-control to our knowledge to help us master our emotions (2 Pet. 1:6). Even when others hurt us we dare not be quick-tempered and play the fool. “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).
“Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” (Proverbs 27:22, NKJV)
The proverb depicts a process of separating the husk from the kernel of grain in a manner that is more intricate and careful than the usual threshing process. (The word “grind” means “to pound or beat small.”) Pulpit Commentary notes in this proverb “is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool…an obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become his second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity” (Proverbs, 519). Although pounding and grinding grain yields its intended results, you cannot beat foolishness out of a fool. You cannot pound the truth of God into a heart that is hardened by sin against it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is said to be “impossible…to renew them again to repentance” who have tasted heaven’s sweet goodness and then fallen away from the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-6). Unless and until the obstinate heart softens toward God and toward His truth, the sinner will go on, unaffected by efforts to separate him (or her) from the foolishness of his sin. “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart” (Hebrews 3:7-8)!
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:20–22, NKJV)
King Solomon personifies wisdom in this passage. She cries out in open venues, offering her instruction and blessings to all who will acknowledge her. But, she is not met with ready reception. Instead, she is met with scorn and mockery. A knowledge of her ways begins with “the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). Her ways are held in contempt by fools; they hate the knowledge she offers (verse 22). And so, they live foolishly, spurning the rewards of her righteous counsel (Proverbs 8:8). Her words of truth warn of sin’s danger, but, fools “hate knowledge,” and “mock at sin” (Proverbs 14:9). Such foolishness primes one to be seduced and destroyed by evil (cf. Proverbs 6:20-29; 7:1-7). Listen to wisdom when she calls. She speaks truth. Her words contain righteousness. They are plain, and they are right. Knowledge of her ways is more valuable than silver, gold, and precious gems (Proverbs 8:5-11). The wise agree; the foolish mock. Which are you?
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3, NKJV)
Speaking God’s word in order to address the spiritual needs of men and women is an action of divine grace. And, that truth applies “to everyone who is among you” – divine truth knows no partiality. Therefore, we are warned against a conceited, arrogant frame of mind toward God’s truth. Arrogance prevents the wisdom of sound judgment. Truly, arrogance is an attribute of the fool, who prideful trusts in his own reasoning: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Prov. 18:2). Faith produces humility toward God’s truth, not hubris. Faith does not argue against God’s truth; it accepts it. Faith does not elevate human reasoning; it submits to the infinitely superior will of God. The word “soberly” in today’s text means “to be in one’s right mind” (Thayer, 612-613). When a Christian is arrogant, he is not in his right mind. We must have the mind of Christ (humble and obedient) – not the conceited mind of the world (Phil. 2:5-8).
It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3, NKJV)
Why do we start quarrels? I suspect, if the truth be told, we usually think someone else started the quarrel that exists – “it wasn’t us who started it!” Rarely do we take credit for being the fool who started the argument. Yet, that is the problem, isn’t it? When we are unwilling to admit our part in a quarrel we are not inclined to end it speedily. Instead, we feel justified in “defending ourselves” or otherwise “not giving in” (after all, “we aren’t the one with the problem!”). Quarrels exist where the things of the flesh prevail over the things of the Spirit (Jas. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:5). Fools start quarrels, and sometimes, that fool is the person looking back at us in the mirror. Better that we admit our part in the quarrel, repent of our sin, seek forgiveness and correct the damage we have done, rather than foolheartedly continue sinful strife. Honor comes from ending quarrels, not beginning them.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12, NKJV)
No human being is right all the time. Yet, conceit prevents us from seeing and admitting our errors and shortcomings. Relying upon self-affirming and self-elevating “wisdom” instead of God’s truth is beyond foolishness. Pride is self-defeating, elevating oneself above truth. A prideful heart rejects godly wisdom. Such a person has already made up his mind; He cannot be wrong. Let us not set and hold a high opinion of ourselves. Let us trust God and rely upon the wisdom He has revealed in His word.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1, NKJV)
April 1st is April Fools’ Day, a day for pranks and practical jokes. The sentiment is lighthearted and harmless. But, the heart that says “there is no God” is not harmless. It is a mark of foolishness and corruption to deny God. Such an attitude invariably leads to sinful conduct. Goodness is eclipsed by sins of every kind. Do not be a fool. God is real. Through the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ, God is calling all sinners to give up their foolish ways and be redeemed from sin and death (Acts 2:36-41). It’s no joking matter.